K-State scurries to prep bio center

MANHATTAN — Before construction of the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility can begin, Kansas State University and the city of Manhattan must prepare the site, a process that is now on the fast track.

K-State officials said they are working quickly to secure the plan and begin the move. Part of the agreement to bring the facility to Manhattan was that the 48-acre site would be cleared and utilities prepared for construction.

The sooner the site is cleared, the sooner NBAF can start the move.

The College of Veterinary Medicine and the College of Agriculture have facilities in the footprint of the proposed site.

The veterinary medicine facilities will be relocated. Ralph Richardson, dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine, said he expects the facilities to be open in August or September.

The College of Agriculture's grain mill will be relocated once a new mill is built at the grain science center. Fred Cholick, the dean of the College of Agriculture and soon the president of the KSU Foundation, said the mill is not in a primary area and can be moved when a new facility is complete in two years.

Officials with the Department of Homeland Security have said they hope to break ground by late summer.

Part of the local incentive package that helped to secure NBAF's move to Manhattan was $32 million for site demolition, facility and utility preparation and relocation. The state legislature authorized $150 million in incentives for the facility, said Chad Bettes, director of marketing and communication for the Kansas Bioscience Authority.

The current location of the vet and ag school facilities has been an advantage for the colleges, Cholick said. The facilities have been on campus and easily accessible to students and researchers.

"The value of a site close for our students to have learning opportunities is very, very important to us," Cholick said.

For Cholick and Richardson, the move consists of a period of inconvenience that ultimately will be worth the hassle for the colleges. They will get new facilities from the process.

Cholick said the agriculture college has been working for some time to raise funds for a new grain mill. NBAF's relocation was a major part of initiating that process, he said.

The quick move, however, creates an issue with facility use while the move takes place. A major tenet of the plan is to have as minimal an impact on operations as possible by moving the operations in phases, Richardson said.

"Our hope is that we will be able to orchestrate it in a sequence that will have a minimal impact on the school," Richardson said.

The new facilities, which will be called the Large Animal Research Center, should be completed in early fall, Richardson said.

The move of facilities will be worth the trouble to have NBAF in such close proximity to the colleges. Gary Anderson, director of the veterinary college's diagnostic lab, said the college is excited about the relationship they will have with researchers at NBAF.

"They're solid scientists and we're going to enhance their program and they're going to enhance ours," Anderson said.